Faith doesn’t always lead directly to changes in family life, missionaries notice. Sometimes it takes a new believer years to understand how Jesus should influence their marriage and parenting and what the Bible says about these intimate topics. The spiritual growth takes time, but missionaries want to encourage national believers to reflect their love for Christ to each other. They encourage others, as they work to keep their own marriages strong in circumstances that might test the strongest unions.
Winfield and Lori Scott* work among Central Asian peoples and recognize how marriages are suffering, even among believers. Last fall, the Scotts were asked to lead a marriage retreat for a group of national pastors and their wives. Marriage-focused events are not common in these areas and most of the couples had not been in a setting where discussing their relationship was encouraged.
Winfield and Lori started with their personal testimonies and shared how important it was for individuals to understand their identity in Christ before working on their marriages.
“Then we talked about how we met, how we fell in love, what brought us together,” Lori says. “I don’t think they talk about that much.”
Lori says that there was “a lot of snickering” as they openly discussed marriage and the differences between men and women. “They were soaking it up like sponges.” The Scotts wanted them to know that it’s healthy to talk to each other, especially in a Christian context where the Bible is the foundation.
Over the next few days, the Scotts encouraged the couples to share in small groups and alone with their spouses. They urged them to go on a walk together and discuss current situations that their families were facing. The group also enjoyed fellowship times with the wives separated from the husbands. Lori noticed when the women were alone that older women would offer guidance to younger wives.
One woman who had been through many struggles in her marriage talked with Lori about being a godly wife. “When she spoke, you could tell that she was so full of the Spirit. I told her, ‘You need to be pouring into these women.’” The Scotts are hopeful that more Christian couples will learn the value and impact of encouraging each other.
One young wife didn’t understand her role as a partner in ministry beside her husband. “His ministry is your ministry. You are one,” Lori helped her understand. She had not realized that her hospitality and her influence on the people around her could be a reflection of Christ and her marriage.
A different couple was facing the struggles of an overloaded schedule. The husband spent long hours at work, in addition to their ministry. This put a great deal of strain on his wife and young child. The wife had grown bitter and the couple was not communicating. Lori told the wife, “I’m going to challenge you this week that every time he comes home to try to say something positive to him.”
Lori shares that this couple went through some pretty rough seasons, but when they started to talk to one another, they found a way to work through the difficulties. Lori received a message recently from the wife indicating that things were much better in their marriage.
Whether in personal counseling, discipleship ministries with believers, or in events like the marriage retreat, the Scotts encourage Christians to look to Scripture for guidance and to seek the Holy Spirit’s power in their marriages and families. Lori sees that Christian families are critical to the work of reaching the nations for Christ.
“The marriage relationship is the most beautiful example of Christ’s love for us.”